Thursday, July 21, 2011

Plundering the Egyptians: Finding God in Popular Culture

Yesterday, I saw the final movie in the Harry Potter series ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2"). It was a bittersweet experience, because while the movie was great, it also marked the end of an era that also encompassed the first ten years of my marriage.

I saw the first Harry Potter movie in November 2001, when I was a newlywed and in my second semester of seminary. I had not read any of the books, and in fact went to see the movie because I had heard so many conflicting reports over whether Harry Potter promoted witchcraft/evil or was simply a fantastic story. I wanted to see it for myself so I could make up my own mind on that issue.

By the end of the 2 1/2 hour movie, I was hooked. I was entranced. Over the next year and a half, I read the first four books and listened to them on CD. When the fifth book came out in 2003, I was on the "hold" list at the library and received one of the first copies. I read it in a day. That Christmas, I received the first five books as presents. When the sixth book came out, I pre-ordered it from Amazon and received (and read) it that day. When the seventh (and final) book came out, I was 34 weeks pregnant with Nora and at SJ. That weekend was one of the few times that I had my sermon completed and bulletin printed by Friday afternoon. The book was due to be released on Saturday, and I wanted the whole day to read it. I received it via mail around 2pm on Saturday, grabbed it from Harry's hands, and headed for the nursery and the comfy glider. I read it in five hours, and I think that was the last time I read a book (of significant length) in one sitting. I own all seven books, I've seen all seven movies, and I own most of them.

While my devotion to them is not quite as fervent, I am also a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, and even Twilight (although I don't own the series yet, but they're on my Amazon wish list). I have glimmers and themes of the Gospel in all of them.

As I've matured as a Christian and a person, I have developed an increasing appreciation for the way God works through popular culture, and have developed an eye for "mining" popular culture for glimpses of the Gospel. Wesley called it "plundering the Eygptians."

With that in mind, I'm going out on a total limb this fall and offering a small group study at BTUMC on the Harry Potter series. If that takes off, I'll follow it up with studies on the other series I've mentioned. Rather than ignoring popular culture or embracing it without thought, I believe that we as Christians can and should engage culture and critically examine it, see how God works through it, and find lessons that we can apply to our lives and draw closer to God.

What's your take on this? Have you been part of a study on elements of pop culture?

No comments: